In 1991, Tom Knudson wrote a five part series of articles from an eight-month investigation for the Sacramento Bee called “The Sierra in Peril”. This report chronicled a myriad of problems: polluted air, dying forests, poisoned rivers, vanishing wildlife, eroding soil and rapid-fire development. This series won a Pulitzer Prize.
These articles made the conservation community aware that there was no unified voice speaking out for the protection of the Sierra. Thus, the Environment Now foundation joined by other groups and foundations sponsored a conference called Sierra Now. In preparation a number of task forces were convened to research, assess, and develop environmental solutions to Sierra problems. The final recommendations from the task forces were presented to 450 attendees at the Sierra Now conference.
One of the goals of the Sierra Now process was to create and launch a new organization to ‘speak out’ for the Sierra. That organization founded from this was the Sierra Nevada Alliance. Based on the results of the task forces and conference, conservation leaders reached the inevitable conclusion that environmental organizations must begin working together toward a common Sierra goal, share their talents and create expertise where none exists.
The new organization was to emphasize grassroots activism and be based in the Sierra, with its primary focus being coordination of the conservation efforts in the Sierra. The mandate for the new Alliance in the fall of 1992 was:
- Be the unified environmental voice for Sierra activists at the regional and national level
- Provide technical, legal, and organizational support for environmental partners
- Pursue the recommendations made by the Sierra Now Task Forces
- Educate the public about the Sierra’s environmental problems
- Provide models and proposals for better environmental management in the Sierra
- Publicize the environmental degradation happening in the Sierra Nevada in the media
- Serve as the consensus builder for Sierra environmental advocates
- Help its environmental partners be more effective in advocating change to protect and rehabilitate the Sierra Nevada
- Build coalitions between the public and private sectors in order to facilitate the creation of sustainable environmental policies
In 1993 the Sierra Nevada Alliance was founded as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Laurel Ames was hired as the first Executive Director and served in this position until 2002. The first office was the dining room table of Laurel Ames.
The founding board of directors included: Andy Bartlett, Jane Baxter, Linda Blum, Joan Boothe, Peter Brussard, John Buckley, Harriet Burgess, David Edelson, Dan Everson, Warren Haines, John Kippling, Andrea Lawrence, Rick Luskin, Patricia Malberg, Dean Malley, Erin Noel, Joan Reiss, Rob Schaeffer, Marjorie Sill, Kathy Tierney, Frannie Waid, and Kimery Wiltshire.